Monday, December 08, 2008

Confessions of a Woodchuck - Remembering "The Mill"

In central Newfoundland the pulp and paper mill is part of the culture. "The Mill" can only mean the pulp and paper mill. A "sample" is a folded rectangle of paper often used to cover a floor when painting or given to a child to scribble on. "The Bark" was the area in Bishop's Falls with the best view of The Falls before the flood. It is as intrinsic to Central as the Fish Plant in Marystown.

Now they will be pulling up their grapnel and drifting into time. It brings to mind a song by "Green Day":

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road, Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go... It's something unpredictable, but in the end it's right."

The song is subtitled "Time of Your Life" but more appropriately it's title is "Good Riddance".

A century of bark and wood debris that has paved the floor of the bay in Norris Arm a foot deep with de-oxygenated lifeless sludge. Good Riddance.

The industry has been given the great liberty of exclusive timber rights for the richest forests of the island and Labrador. Good Riddance.

Effluent pipes dumping into the river dyes, bleaches, and chemicals of various questionable origin. The other effluent pipe is hidden below the surface of the river. Good Riddance.

The once pine clad hills of Central Newfoundland are laid bare, from the air you can see a vast expanse of clearcut forest which inadequate silviculture has mostly failed to rebuild. Good Riddance.

Helicopters spray herbicides in areas to defoliate leaf-bearing trees to give an advantage to young evergreen growth. The very ecology of our boreal forest at battle with the mainland pulp and paper industry. Good Riddance.

Poor management and maintenance of infrastructure at the Bishop's Falls mill contributed to the flood of 1983 with the loss of homes and the subsequent loss of a life in the aftermath. Good Riddance.

The Exploits River is one of the premier rivers for the Altantic Salmon in the world. Salmon enhancement projects have always had to work with the facilities of the pulp and paper mill, controlling water levels and maintaining salmon ladders, often taking a back seat to the concerns of ABITIBI. Good Riddance.

Electrical power produced by Bishop's Falls and other hydro damns have provided a good reliable source of cheap/free power to the Pulp and Paper industry for decades. Time to use it for better developments. To ABITIBI: Good Riddance.

My grandfather worked for pennys in that mill. Woods workers slept on lice infested boughes in the freezing cold to build that industry for the next generations. Only since the union has a reasonable life for workers existed. Good Riddance.

The Mill has long given up it's upper echelon to executives from Quebec who have skimmed the cream off the top. Good Riddance.

For a century it has been essential to the very definition of being a Central Newfoundlander. The story of building The Mill is a story of taming a vast rich Central Newfoundland wilderness, of a strong and resilient people. Faced with uncertainty there is a confidence among the communities that the very strength of the land, the rivers, the ponds and forests that have sustained them since before the Beothuck, will continue to sustain. Bravely they defied the final attempts of "The Company" to suck the last bit of blood from them. Their strength remains.

My Grandfather, my uncles, my father made a good life off The Mill. It was likely if things remained the same I too would have made my living there. So I am apologetic to them in being critical of our bread and butter for so many years. It is with this same perspective though that I say to the greedy CEOs that have sucked the life from us and the land for so long: Good Riddance, you came here with nothing, you can leave with the same.

Friday, December 05, 2008


Prorogue: The prefix Pro means "in favour of" and the root word "Rogue" means a thief or crook.

So the Governor General is "in favour of thieves and crooks" Am I interpreting that correctly?! Sounds about right.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Claim Game: Russia, Canada, US, Norway and Denmark seek Santa's Oil

Yesterday's Globe and Mail (I get it free and wouldn't pay a red copper otherwise) has a supplement in the Report on Business about Northern Countries staking their claims for the treasure of the Arctic. Interesting.

Of course Canada has always made claim to the North Pole, happily assuming the rest of the world was on board with their maps. Only in recent years has our government decided they might send some survey crews up there to at least make a presence.

So who owns The North Pole? Santa of course being the international man of mystery that he is refuses to claim citizenship to any country, so no help there. Russia has ice breakers that could put our Coast Guard breakers in their hold. They have nuclear subs sniffing around up there dropping Soviet flags all over the seabed. They have long made a reasonable claim to The Pole. Our own DFO survey ships are a little underwhelming compared to Russian effort. Canada's survey ships in the arctic would be like sending me to Manhatten island with a Pink White and Green and claiming it for old Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was this little clip from "Canada's National Newspaper" though that really caught my attention. It says "Russia has claimed much of the Arctic because it claims an underwater ridge links Siberia to the seabed that runs underneath the North Pole". So Russia is making claims in the UN to the arctic based on underwater land masses, a "continental shelf" if you will. In other words Russia is claiming "custodial management" to their "continental shelf". I can't help but think I've heard that before?

If I can offer a suggestion to our ships up there surveying the Arctic and drawing our maps: Perhaps when you are drawing your lines along our coast don't be afraid to let the pen stray to encompass the "Nose" and "Tail". As long as we are staking our territory to the UN, lets not forget where Newfoundland and Labrador trully extends.

Greg Byrne of NL Outside the Box and active member of NLFirst has proposed that we include the Nose and Tail of the Grand Banks on our own maps as a show of custodial management. Recent discussions with him came to mind when I read the Globe articles. I tend to agree that we should be making the claim to the continential shelf. As a start.